The 20th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition opens next week! This year's exhibition showcases over 100 costumes from 20 films released in 2011. What's more, we're also featuring a selection of classic costumes from both the FIDM Museum collection and the Department of Recreation and Parks, City of Los Angeles, Historic Hollywood Collection. The exhibition runs from February 14th through April 28th and is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. As always, the exhibition is FREE. Information on booking a guided tour of the exhibition can be found here.
During the run of the exhibition, look forward to a series of blog posts about objects and costume designers featured in the exhibition. First up, a pair of Delman evening shoes worn by Marlene Dietrich. As the label on the insole indicates, these shoes were made "Especially For Marlene Dietrich." Eye and light-catching, we believe these glittering heels were worn by Dietrich during one of her popular 1950s nightclub appearances.
In December 1953, Marlene Dietrich premiered a nightclub act at the Sahara Hotel's Congo Room. Onstage for less than 30 minutes, Dietrich "wiggled discreetly" while performing songs from her repertoire, including Lili Marlene and See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have.1 Designed by costume designer Jean Louis, the evening gown Dietrich wore onstage was a scandalous showstopper. Made from sheer black fabric lined with flesh-toned silk, it fit Dietrich like a second-skin. Rhinestone and sequin embroidery covered the skirt and crept up the bodice, focusing attention on Dietrich's apparent nudity. During the second-half of her performance, Dietrich changed into a red and black circus ringmaster's costume, complete with top hat. Though brief, the show was a tremendous hit. For the next two decades, Dietrich travelled her nightclub act worldwide, always including an annual appearance in Las Vegas.
During the 1950s, most of Dietrich's performance wardrobe was designed by Jean Louis, costume designer for Columbia Pictures. Louis recalled the hours that he and Dietrich spent carefully positioning each sequin and rhinestone during fittings:"She would say, 'I don't like symmetry. Move that sequin,' and we would, but that might make a symmetry with a rhinestone, so we would move that, and this went on all day, all weekend."2 Most of the gowns Dietrich wore onstage in her nightclub act were similar to the Jean Louis gown she wore in 1953: sleek, form-fitting sheaths embellished with rhinestones and sequins. She often accessorized with a rhinestone necklace, and sometimes a fur-tipped chiffon scarf. This pair of sparkly Delman evening shoes would have been the perfect finishing touch to one of Dietrich's glittering stage ensembles.
1 Hopper, Hedda. "Drama." Los Angeles Times. 18 Dec. 1953: B8.
2 Quoted in Bach, Steven. Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend. 1992. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press edition. 2011: 370.